The fate of a suit filed by former magistrates who were sent packing in 2003 by the retired Justice Aaron-Ringera-led judiciary purge will now be determined by the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
Constitutional and Human Rights Judge Chacha Mwita last month directed the suit by 42 magistrates who have challenged their dismissal to pursue the matter before the Labour court.
The judge agreed that the issues raised by the petitioners concerned an employer and employees over termination of employment.
“The only other aspect that comes in is that the termination of employment did not take into account certain constitutional or legal principles, thus violated the petitioners’ rights and fundamental freedoms,” Justice Mwita said.
He however rejected an application by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) seeking to strike out the suit entirely, arguing the appropriate action was to refer the matter to the right court.
The former magistrates have faulted the JSC’s decision to retire them on public interest.
They contend that the action taken by the commission violated their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms on various aspects, including a breach of the rules of natural justice.
They have sought, among other reliefs, a declaration that their retirement on public interest was unconstitutional and violated their fundamental rights to equal protection of the law, human dignity and integrity of the person.
The JSC had argued the court lacked jurisdiction on grounds that the matter relates to employment.
However, the petitioners have maintained that the High Court retains inherent jurisdiction because the issue before the court was on the violation of constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms, issues that fall within the court’s jurisdiction.
Further, the former magistrates reckon their termination was unfair and want those who are still eligible to be reinstated or be fully compensated for the loss of employment.
Judiciary Chief Registrar Ann Amadi questioned why it took the magistrates 14 years to file the case, indicating that they failed to demonstrate the inordinate delay.
Ms Amadi argued that section 90 of the Employment Act required them to lodge their suit within three years from the time the decision to retire them in public interest was made.
A number of judges who had been sacked for various reasons made a comeback after successfully challenging the decision to send them home.
Records show that Aaron Ringera never gave the magistrates a chance to defend themselves.
The retired judge lined up a wide range of accusations against the magistrates and judges, including sexual harassment to demanding and receiving bribes.
He also accused them of lack of integrity, unethical conduct and judicial misbehaviour.
According to the Ringera report, corruption included demanding and accepting bribes, sexual favours, free transport and hospitality and gifts in return for partisan judgments.